President Barack Obama is living proof that politics can be a fast-track profession. Spend a few years in the Illinois Senate, a few more in the U.S. Senate, and four years of taxpayer-paid living at the White House can be yours, too.
It’s rarely so easy. Just ask some of the politicos in Mo-Kan who are having their next opportunities blocked by veteran incumbents who show no signs of stepping aside.
The logjam is thick in Kansas, where three-term Sen. Pat Roberts says he plans to seek a fourth go next year at 78. Roberts’ time as a congressional aide dates to the Johnson administration. He’s been in Washington ever since he won his first race for the House in 1980.
While he has lots of years under his belt, his nickname could be “Senator Anonymous.” A Public Policy Polling survey out last week concluded that Roberts is one of the least well-known senators in the country. Some 41 percent of Kansans had no opinion of him either positively or negatively.
“The only senator in the country we’ve found with a higher percentage of voters having no opinion about him is first termer Mark Kirk of Illinois,” the pollster said.
For what it’s worth, of those who had heard of Roberts, 31 percent approved of him while 28 percent disapproved.
Still, Roberts’ is doing something right. But PPP still concluded, with some hypothetical matchups, that no Democrat could beat him or even come close. And so far, no Republicans have opted to challenge him.
The word in Kansas, though, is all four congressmen lust after Roberts’ seat. They won’t run against him, but will continue to vote hard-right conservative to bolster their credentials for a future primary.
Missouri’s traffic jam is also daunting. There was talk in recent years that this would be Congressman Emanuel Cleaver’s last term. But now, word out of Cleaver’s camp is that he’s running again — and may several more times, too.
Already, the five-term congressman, fresh off a stint as head of the Congressional Black Caucus, has held two fund-raisers for the 2014 cycle. And three more are planned.
What does that mean for the wannabes? Another term as Jackson County executive for Mike Sanders. A job switch for state Sen. Jolie Justus, who is barred by term limits from seeking re-election. So she’s considering a run for Kansas City Council and the seat now held by the term-limited Jan Marcason.
Who else is left waiting in the wings? Among those said to be have at least some interest are state Rep. Jay Swearingen (his father-in-law is former Kansas Congressman Dennis Moore), former state Sen. Victor Callahan, Kansas City Council member Cindy Circo, former council member Cathy Jolly … and the list goes on.
That’s a logjam for you.
To reach Steve Kraske, call 816-234-4312 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him @stevekraske.